Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Clare Hollingworth: grande dame of war reporters

January 15, 2017
Clare Hollingworth in her war correspondent's uniform - note the shoulder flash

Clare Hollingworth in her uniform – note the war correspondent epaulettes

Only a week ago, I was writing about Women war reporters and ‘immersion journalism’ and a few days later, Clare Hollingworth, the ‘grande dame of war correspondents‘ died at the age of 105. She is truly one of the women who could have inspired the short story and illustration in a Woman magazine of 1945 about war reporter ‘Julie Wilson’.

In the 1930s, she went to Katowice in Poland, where she and her husband helping 3,000 Jews to escape from the Nazis, as well as Austrians and Germans who opposed Hitler — a role that earned her the Fleet Street nickname, ‘the Scarlet Pimpernel’.

She then talked her way into Daily Telegraph and landed in Berlin as its freelance foreign correspondent on August 26, 1939 — hours before Goering banned all civilian flights in German airspace. Days later she had her first scoop, though not with her own byline, by breaking the news of Germany’s invasion of Poland.

The Imperial War Museum holds Clare Hollingworth's epaulettes

The Imperial War Museum holds Clare Hollingworth’s epaulettes

Her litany of scoops is incredible: the first interview in a British paper with the young Shah of Iran in 1941; getting behind enemy lines in Egypt in 1941 — when she wasn’t even supposed to get anywhere near the front line; working for Time magazine after Montgomery banned her; learning to fly during the war; covering Palestine and Jerusalem (where her hotel was blown up) after the war, for the News of the World and the Economist; being the first to twig that Kim Philby had defected to the Soviet Union – though the Guardian wouldn’t print it for several months for fear of a libel suit; What the Papers Say award in 1962 for her astounding coverage of the Algerian war; covering Vietnam; the first female defence correspondent at the Guardian in 1963; the first resident China correspondent for the Daily Telegraph; watching the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989 from a balcony of the Peking hotel.

In Leonie Mason's short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

In Leonie Mason’s short story, ‘Julie Wilson’ is an official war correspondent

She was given the James Cameron Award for Journalism in 1994 and a lifetime achievement award at the What the Papers Say awards in 1999.

In between all this, her great nephew, Patrick Garrett, has recounted many love affairs and how she threatened another journalist who was having an affair with her husband with a Mauser pistol that she pulled from her handbag.

From 1981 she had lived in Hong Kong with a regular table at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, where she celebrated her 105th birthday in October with champagne.

There are two books about Hollingworth: her 1990 autobiography, Front Line; and the 2015 biography by Patrick Garrett,  Of Fortunes and War: Clare Hollingworth, First of the Female War Correspondents. The Imperial War Museum has taped interviews with Hollingworth from 2001.Her choice of luxury for Desert Island Discs in 1999 was paper and pens (with thick nibs).

Women war reporters and ‘immersion journalism’

January 5, 2017
A glamorous female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1946 issue of Woman magazine

A glamorous British female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1945 issue of Woman magazine

The International Association for Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS) has some cracking meetings – gonzo journalism being a recent subject – and the next one is about ‘immersion journalism’. It is, they say, what Martha Gellhorn, a US war reporter for the US weekly magazine Collier’s during the Second World War, would have called ‘the view from the ground’.

The concept of the female war correspondent dates back at least to Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Charlotte Briggs, who reported on the Boer Wars in the 1890s for the Daily Mail and Morning Post newspapers, respectively.

Gellhorn began writing in the 1920s and then went with Ernest Hemingway in 1936 to cover the Spanish Civil War. She married him in 1940, but they split up five years later. The Spanish conflict was the start of a career that saw her flying off to cover just about every war she could find until she developed cancer and later killed herself in 1998. Another American woman famous in the role was Lee Miller. She did so as a photographer, at first as a freelance and then from 1940 for Vogue. She was famously pictured soaping herself in Hitler’s bath. After the war, she married the artist Roland Penrose and settled in Britain.

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

These female correspondents were glamorous figures, and were depicted in a short story, ‘No Other Love’ by Leonie Mason (a pseudonym of Winifred Walker), in Woman in February 1945. The illustration, credited to ‘Koolman: Carlton’, shows two women in a Paris café. One is in uniform with the designation ‘Official War Correspondent’ on her shoulder; she is ‘Julie Wilson’ a British reporter for a paper called the Daily Record (there was then, and still is, a Glasgow paper of that name). On the table between them alongside what look like coffees in tall glasses with metal holders is a packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a US brand relaunched in 1942 with a white packet designed by Raymond Loewy to appeal to women.

In Leonie Mason's short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

In Leonie Mason’s short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

Gellhorn wrote reports and fiction for magazines throughout the war and after, with her short stories being published in both Britain and, the US. As I show in my book, British Magazine Design, ‘The Long Journey’, for example, was published in the June 1952 issue of Good Housekeeping and then Woman’s Own (December 4). Other examples have titles such as ‘Come Ahead, Adolf!’ (Collier’s, Aug 6, 1938); ‘Dachau: Experimental Murder’ (Collier’s, Jun 23 1945); ‘Java journey’ (Saturday Evening Post, Jun 1, 1946); and ‘The Lowest Trees Have Tops’ (Ladies’ Home Journal, Aug 1967). The Fiction Mags Index has a substantial list.

French coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes would have been luxuries in wartime Britain - rationing would not end until 1952

Coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes – luxuries in wartime Britain, where rationing would not end until 1952

As the literary journalism academics explain, such work ‘uses in-depth, on-the-scene reporting, research and literary techniques to take readers into worlds that would otherwise be off limits’. They also give a more technical definition:

Immersion attempts to address the limits of conventional reporting by replacing the emphasis on deadlines and objectivity with long-term observation and the building of enduring — and often psychologically and dramatically complex — reporter-source relationships.
Immersion practices link literary journalism to other disciplines, primarily anthropology and sociology, with their emphasis on the role of the participant observer and “thick” description techniques used in ethnographies.
Historically, immersion journalism often imbued reporters with a distinct moral authority to call for social reforms. Current discussions of immersion techniques highlight the ethical dilemmas of being part of the story, the quest for authenticity, and the necessity of finding narrative in the “every day-ness” of immersion. The economics of the news business also factor in. How can journalism now afford the time and resource-intense practice of immersion? How will traditional immersion techniques fare in contrast to new technologies of interactivity and virtual reality that purport to give the reader an “immersive” experience?
Immersion also presents a challenge to the pedagogy of literary journalism. What practices are best for teaching immersion, particularly given that few students will have the schedule and financial support to attempt it?

The IALJS sessions will take place at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in the US city of Chicago on August 9-12. It is titled ‘The View from the Ground: Rethinking Immersion.’ The editors are seeking academic submissions.

McCullin, Wintour and Brookes given honours

December 31, 2016
Don McCullin photographer Anna Wintour, Vogue editor Times cartoonist Peter Brookes. Pic: Richard Pohle
Don McCullin, former war photographer Anna Wintour, chief of the US edition of Vogue Times cartoonist Peter Brookes – did Oz covers

Photojournalist Don McCullin, Anna Wintour, chief of the US edition of Vogue, and Times cartoonist Peter Brookes are the prominent names in this new year’s honours list.

The 81-year-old McCullin, who made his name on Town and The Sunday Times  Magazine among others, has been knighted.

Peter 'Hack' Brookes cover for Oz magazine from 1971

Peter ‘Hack’ Brookes cover from 1971

Peter Brookes, who in the past drew for underground magazine Oz, has been made a CBE. In a news item in The Times today headlined ‘I won’t start pulling my punches’, the 73-year-old cartoonist defends accepting the award:

I am glad to live in a country that recognises cartoonists in this particular way. There will be those who wonder whether Theresa  May and others can justifiably say ‘we have got him now’. My feeling is very much that they haven’t. I am not going to stop hitting hard.

He points to the contrast between his honour and the treatment of Atena Farghadani, who was jailed in Iran for 12 years after posting a cartoon in protest at laws restricting birth control and divorce. ‘She has been jailed for doing the sort of drawing I do three or four times a week,’ Brookes said.

Anna Wintour, who was appointed editor of ­American Vogue in 1987 after two years at the helm of the British edition, has been made a dame, while veteran Liverpudlian comic Ken Dodd is knighted at the age of 89. His world of Diddymen and the Jam Butty Mines in Knotty Ash has been a legend in my lifetime. Difficult to imagine ‘Nuclear Wintour’ repeating the sentiments of Daddy on hearing his news: ‘full of plumptiousness’ and ‘highly tickled’.

The strange ways of Fleet Street: Jack the Ripper expert paid in unused £1 notes

October 12, 2016
Weekend magazine cover in 1959 (jan21). At this time it was published in a tabloid format

Weekend magazine cover in 1959, when Richard Whittington-Egan began working there. At this time it was published in a tabloid format

A recent obituary in the Telegraph for Richard Whittington-Egan, mentioned an interesting tit-bit about Fleet Street practices. Whittington-Egan was known as a ‘towering authority’ on Jack the Ripper, but earned his living as a journalist on Weekend, a popular general interest magazine.

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

He worked at Weekend‘s offices at Northcliffe House off Fleet Street  between 1957 and 1986 – in ‘a job he detested’, but it must have paid the bills and gave him the time to indulge his passions. And a condition of his contract was that ‘he was paid weekly, every Friday, in unused £1 notes’!

In that time, Weekend moved from a tabloid newspaper format with a colour cover to an A4 magazine, a strategy also used by rivals John Bull (which became Today in 1960) and Tit-Bits. Weekend took over Today in 1964 and Tit-Bits in 1984, but closed down itself five year later.

The obit makes him out to have been quite a character whose work ‘was as remarkable for its singularly convoluted style as it was for his probing, almost obsessive, research’:

A kinsman of Dick Whittington, the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Whittington-Egan, with his signature pipe, stiffly starched collar and lined cape, cut an old-world figure of studied manner and speech. To some, however, his rich prose was no less fussy and idiosyncratic: a contemporary marked him out as ‘one of the last surviving and most expert exponents of the broderie anglaise style of writing’…

But despite the stylistic curlicues, Whittington-Egan was a shrewd analyst of the criminal mind. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jack the Ripper killings in the East End of London in the autumn of 1888, and was a dissenting voice when, in 1965, the American author Tom Cullen identified the Ripper as an obscure barrister, Montague John Druitt. ‘It won’t do,’ complained Whittington-Egan, ‘it simply won’t do.’

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov19) with Felicity Kendall on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov 19) with TV actress Felicity Kendal on the cover

His 1975 study, A Casebook on Jack The Ripper, tackled the theories about the Ripper’s identity and dismissed them all: ‘The verdict must remain undisturbed: some person or persons unknown.’

Associated Newspapers – part of the Daily Mail group – owned the magazine. Its offices, Northcliffe House, were in Tudor Street, off Fleet Street and are today occupied by a law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The building name – after the Answers magazine and Daily Mail founder Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe – is also used for the Daily Mail‘s office, in Kensington, today. The name Weekend is now found on the Daily Mail‘s Saturday magazine supplement.

Of course, it’s no wonder Whittington-Egan developed an interest in the macabre, for he worked yards way from Johnson’s Court, the alley that is supposed to be the site of the barber shop of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Liverpool-born Whittington-Egan broadcast frequently on BBC Radio Merseyside and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, investigating ghosts and poltergeists. He was 91 when he died. Read the Telegraph obituary.

Gawker and the ‘crude crunch of global litigation’

August 28, 2016

Gawker has joined the News of the World as road fill, cosmic particles or wherever it is that dead media go. Peter Preston of the Guardian (and one of its past editors) has written about its closure and his worries about the potential effect of legal busybodies on the media in print and online:

Hear the crude crunch of global litigation bent on obliteration, not arbitration. Trump issues writs as heedlessly as he massages statistics: 1,900 of them filed already. Silicon Valley is flexing its muscles. I know many readers here still see press freedom through a Murdoch prism. I know that Leveson’s followers hold his words as holy writ. But the internet – instantaneously, inevitably – gives news a different dimension. It isn’t just another great-and-good opportunity for the regulatory classes … we ought to care, deeply, about its fate.

When you find Private Eye and the world’s oldest English language magazine, The Spectator, on the same side against Leveson’s press regulation, that’s a big worry. Moneyed Silicon Valley, loud-mouthed celebrities, lawyers and their super-injunctions – a dark combination for press freedom.

Fleet Street jokes

July 17, 2016

Fleet Street was a place full of humour, much of it reflecting the rivalry between groups of journalists, such as news editors, sub-editors and reporters. Here are some examples.

A reporter tells his news editor that, trying to interview a man, he has been tossed about three times, the last time with a broken nose. ‘Huh,’ says the news editor, ‘you go back and try again. He can’t frighten me.’

Can’t remember where I heard that, but the next two come from the Cornmarket/ Haymarket news weekly Topic, which ran a column by Morley Richards, a former senior editor on the Daily Express.

Arthur (‘Chris’) Christiansen [a famous Express editor in its mid-1950s heyday] to gathered sub-editors at a lunch in 1962: ‘You are all pit ponies. Why, one of you greeted me on this sunny day with “Good evening”.’ Topic, 28 April, 1962

And some darker humour still:

Reporter: ‘The chief sub has hanged himself.’
Editor: ‘Have you cut him down yet?’
Reporter: ‘No, he’s not dead yet.’
                                              Topic, 28 July 1962

 

Statist from 1967: worth quoting after Brexit vote

June 29, 2016
A cover from 1967 that could be in the shops today after the Brexit vote: Statist magazine from 24 February 1967

A cover from 1967 that could be in the shops today after the Brexit vote: Statist magazine from 24 February 1967

I mentioned the predilection of Financial Times columnist and editor-in-chief of MoneyWeek Merryn Somerset Webb for quoting a long-defunct weekly magazine, the Statist, a while back. On April 18, she came clean:

Filed away in my basement I have every edition published of The Statist, a financial magazine from the 1960s and early 1970s. I flick through them often to see how things have changed – and how they haven’t. It is amazing how often seemingly new ideas are recycled and how our money gripes stay much the same, whatever the government.

Too true. And now we know the trick to becoming such a successful FT writer. But another question arises: what is Somerset Webb doing with a basement full of such a rare magazine? It’s not exactly the sort of thing that pops up on eBay every week.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

>>>Profiles of finance magazines at Magforum.com

10 things to thank magazines for

May 1, 2016

Here are 10 things that might not exist without magazines.

1. The word ‘magazine’

The first magazine: the Gentleman's Magazine from Sylvanus Urban (Edward Cave) in1731

The Gentleman’s Magazine  in 1731

In January 1731, the Gentleman’s Magazine was the first publication to use the word ‘magazine’ in its modern sense as a periodical.

Before Edward Cave, its publisher, came up with the title, most periodicals were called journals and a magazine was a storehouse, from an ancient Arabic word. That sense still exists, in the sense of a gunpowder magazine, or a magazine of bullets for a machine gun.

But Cave didn’t just come up with the word, his collections of news, opinion and articles set the approach for the modern magazine, and it was published for almost two centuries.

Samuel Johnson listed the word in his dictionary of 1755: ‘Of late this word has signified a miscellaneous pamphlet, from a periodical miscellany named the Gentleman’s Magazine, by Edward Cave [who used the pen-name Sylvanus Urban].’

2. Charles Dickens

The opening page of Dickens' Household Words magazine from 1859

Dickens’ Household Words

The quintessential Victorian author followed in his father’s footsteps as a journalist and worked on a variety of publications for eight years from 1829. He then became editor of Bentley’s Miscellany,  which published Oliver Twist in twenty-four monthly instalments from February 1837. In 1840, he launched his own magazine, Master Humphrey’s Clock in which was published The Old Curiosity Shop. Most of Dickens’ works were first published in magazines as weekly instalments. The publishers then collated them as monthly parts or whole books. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was published in 19 issues over 20 months from 1836.

This publishing approach affected his writing style – it was vital for readers to remember his plots and characters from week to week, so encouraging vivid characterisations and descriptions in his works.

Dickens went on to launch Household Words, which was published by Bradbury & Evans on Fleet Street from 1850. This was followed by All the Year Round in 1859, which carried on after his death in 1870 under the editorship of his son, Charley, for another 18 years. The Dickens Fellowship in tribute to the writer was founded in London in 1902.

3. The curate’s egg

The first issue of Punch magazine dated 17 July 1841. Punch has coined many words and phrases, including 'the curate's egg'

The first issue of Punch magazine dated 17 July 1841

The English expression ‘a curate’s egg’ describes something of mixed character (good and bad).

The phrase was coined in the caption of an 1895 Punch cartoon entitled ‘True humility’ by George du Maurier. This showed a curate who, having been given a stale egg by his host but being too meek to protest, stated that ‘parts of it’ were ‘excellent’ (9 November, p222).

Punch has been credited with coining or popularising many words and expressions. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the magazine almost 4,000 times in its entries, from ‘1984’ to ‘intersexual’ to ‘youthquake’ to ‘zone’.

4. The Pre-Raphaelites

Portrait by Millais of Effie Gray holding a copy of Cornhill magazine

Portrait by Millais of Effie Gray holding a copy of Cornhill magazine (Perth museum)

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 as a secret society, with its founding members, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, all signing their paintings as PRB.

That strategy changed two years later when the Pre-Raphaelites launched a magazine – The Germ – to promote their cause. Rossetti was the editor and the literary monthly was wrapped in a yellow cover.

The January 1850 issue included engravings by William Holman Hunt to illustrate the poems ‘My Beautiful Lady’ and ‘Of My Lady in Death’ by Thomas Woolner. The Pre-Raphaelites’ work was at first regarded as scandalous, but by 1860 they had taken the art world by storm. Their illustrations appeared in many magazines, particularly Cornhill Magazine from its first issue. Millais painted his wife, Effie Gray, holding a copy of the magazine.

5. Mrs Beeton

A spread on puddings from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

A spread on puddings from Mrs Beeton’s book

Isabella Beaton was the wife of Samuel Beeton, who bought the Victorian world magazines such as The Queen and the Boy’s Own Paper. Isabella was a vital part of Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, which was one of the first magazines to address the expanding market of middle-class woman who did much of her own housework. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was spun out of Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. Isabella was just 25 when the book came out, but she died four years later giving birth to their fourth child. Samuel’s life fell apart after that and he lost control of his publishing empire.

6. The Daily Mail

This logo from a recent Daily Mail is based on the original masthead for Answers Magazine

This logo from the Daily Mail echoes the original masthead for Answers Magazine

The editorial strategy developed from 1881 by George Newnes with Tit-Bits – editing down news and facts to their essence and presenting them as entertainment – influenced Alfred Harmsworth as he established both his rival magazine, Answers, and the ‘tabloid’ news style of the Daily Mail (launched in 1896).

Harmsworth’s move from magazines into newspapers (the Daily Mirror followed in 1903) was echoed by Pearson’s Weekly magazine publisher C. Arthur Pearson, who started the Daily Express (1900). These three stalwarts of British newspapers are still published today.

7. Cryptic crosswords

The Dictionary of Bullets published by John Bull in 1935

John Bull’s Dictionary of Bullets

Cryptic word games were popular as puzzles in British magazines from the Victorian era. My pet theory is that the ‘Bullets’ prize puzzles in the weekly John Bull – the best-selling magazine from about 1910 to 1930 – created a nation of cryptic thinkers.

It’s difficult to make sense of many Bullets today because of the way they drew on topical events of the times. However, Bulleteer Bill’s blog is based on cuttings left over from his dad’s obsession with the game (an obsession shared by Alan Bennett’s father).He explains ‘The basic premise was that the competition setters would supply a word or a phrase which the player had then to “complete” or add to in a witty, apposite way’ and quotes the following examples:

A HUNDRED YEARS HENCE: More Radio – Less Activity? (In 1949 when BBC Radio was a fixture in the country’s homes and talk was of expansion and more stations.)

ALL DAD THINKS OF: Retrieving fortunes at Dogs! (Greyhound racing was a popular pastime with dog tracks in most towns, and there’s the extra pun on ‘retriever’.)

Once crosswords were established in Britain in the 1920s – in magazines such as Answers before newspapers such as the Times and Telegraph – it was only natural to combine ‘Bullets thinking’ with crossword clues.

To mark the 1,000th competition, John Bull published a Dictionary of Bullets in 1935.

8. St Trinian’s

Searle's St Trinian's on the cover of Lilliput in December 1949

Searle’s St Trinian’s on a  1949 Lilliput cover

The first of Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s cartoons about a bunch of anarchic schoolgirls was published in Lilliput and he did several covers for the magazine, the first in December 1949, before he established himself on Punch.

Not only that, Kaye Webb, Searle’s first wife, was the picture editor of Lilliput.

The popularity of the cartoons led to four films between 1954 and 1966. The first was The Belles of St. Trinian’s with Alistair Sim, Joyce Grenfell and George Cole.

Another film followed in 1980, and then two films in 2007 and 2009 with Rupert Everett playing two roles, one of the girls and the school’s spinster headmistress.

 

9. ‘Metal Postcard’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees

A Heartfield montage on the cover of Picture Post dated 9 September 1939

A Heartfield montage on the cover of Picture Post dated 9 September 1939

In the 1930s and early 1940s, Stefan Lorant published the photomontages of German Dadaist John Heartfield. Both had fled to Britain to escape the Nazi regime. Lorant popularised Heartfield’s anti-Hitler photomontages in Britain through both Lilliput and Picture Post – two of the most popular magazines of the era.

Heartfield’s response to the Munich Agreement, ‘The Happy Elephants’ of two elephants flying, was used in the third issue of Picture Post (15 October 1938) and his montage of Hitler as the Kaiser used as a front cover for 9 September 1939, a week after war broke out. The images became familiar to the British population and one of Heartfield’s montages, ‘Hurray, the Butter is All Gone!’ inspired the song ‘Metal Postcard’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

10. £100m for Britain’s poorest people

The Big Issue of 4 March 2016 celebrates selling 200 million copies

The Big Issue of 4 March 2016 celebrates 200 million sales

In 1991, John Bird founded The Big Issue to help homeless people earn some cash and to try to shame the John Major government into doing more to help them. In April 2016, The Big Issue marked the sale of 200 million copies.

Street vendors sell 100,000 copies a week and the proceeds they earn help keep a roof over their heads.

In total, Bird reckons the magazine has helped homeless people earn £100m. Furthermore, The Big Issue has inspired street papers in 120 other countries, leading a global self-help revolution.

 

Kitchener, Ernest Noble and the Nignog Club

April 25, 2016
First issue of Kitchener's Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

First issue of Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

Pick up a magazine and you never know where you’ll end up next. A copy of the first issue of the 6-part Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces arrives in the post. This was a part work published by George Newnes, probably starting in January 1915, though it does not carry a date.  It was written by Fleet Street legend Edgar Wallace.

Magazine's back page advert for Fry's Cocoa by Ernest Noble

Magazine’s back page advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo’

On the back cover is an advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo‘. A search on Noble and the Echo took me to a website about the comedians Morecambe and Wise – and a page dedicated to Ernie Wise and the Nignog Club! As it says:

It is a well recorded fact that Ernie Wise was part of a variety concert party in his youth. Its name has gone into Morecambe and Wise folk law, and is often spoken in hushed tones. It was known as the Nig Nog club, and in these days of political correctness and over-eager internet filters, it’s not a phrase you type into Google with carefree abandon.

The site explains on a page based on material from reporter Chris Lloyd that the club originated in County Durham and was launched by the Darlington-based Northern Echo in 1929 as the Nig-Nog Ring, a children’s club. The ‘Chief Ringers’ were Uncle Mac, BBC broadcaster Derek McCulloch who hosted Children’s Hour, and Uncle Ernest, the Noble of my query who it turns out was from Darlington.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Beale Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang suggesting that the word was found in army contexts in the sense ‘fool’ from the late 19th century (a ‘nigmenog’) and as a ‘raw recruit’ from c1925. It also notes a possible connection with the Nig-Nog children’s clubs run by local newspapers, ‘following the model of the children’s page of a Birmingham newspaper’, the Evening Dispatch of 1 November 1929:

My Dear Children, I am sure you must be getting awfully excited … about becoming members of the Children’s Ring … The girls will be called ‘Nigs’ and the boys will be called ‘Nogs’ — and if any of you are twins there will be a special name for you. You will be called ‘Nig-Nogs’!

But this policy was changed a few days later:

After Uncle Ernest and I … talked yesterday … we made up our minds that you should all be called Nignogs, so that there will not be any distinction at all between girls and boys.

I leave the Northern Echo and the Evening Dispatch to argue over who came up with the idea. However, ‘uncles’ running children’s cartoons were a traditional form in newspapers – the Daily Mirror‘s ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ were incredibly popular from their founding in the early 1920s, for example.

The Northern Echo is a legendary paper, the place where Sunday Times and Times editor Harry Evans made his name, and before him Ted Pickering, a 1950s editor of the Daily Express, and WT Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was one of the great Victorian crusading journalists and who died on the Titanic. Unfortunately, the Evening Dispatch is no more.

The Lord Kitchener poster

Britain’s national newspapers

Newspapers in the digital Khyber pass

February 23, 2016

Back in 2009, I wrote ‘Newspapers in a digital Khyber Pass‘ that set out the challenge for Fleet’ Street’s newspapers in moving to digital. Two weeks ago, I wrote about newspapers closing down. I get back from Cuba to find that the Lebedevs have sold off the cheapsheet daily i to Johnston Press and are about to close the print Independent, make most of the staff redundant and go online only.  So, the paper that led the magazinisation of the press is the first to cut its print base and take the jump into the digital maelstrom.

Russian KGB-man turned banker, Alexander Lebedev, and his son, Evgeny, bought up Britain’s youngest national along with London’s Evening Standard. They’ve turned the latter into a celeb-focused cheerysheet.

But what’s this? Trinity Mirror, the regional group that also owns the Daily Mirror, is about to launch a weekday newspaper called New Day. So, next week Britain’s biggest regional newspaper group will by taking on rival regional group Johnston Press and the 40p i with its 50p New Day. What is it that regional groups think they know? Is it just about cutting costs?

>>UK national papers

>>Regional newspaper groups